Jim Siergey & Hilary Barta: Pistachio Joe–The Finale!

February 27th, 2015

In previous episodes of Pistachio Joe


Joe squinted and peered down the dark alley. It seemed like forever since Brobik and Steve had climbed the stairs and opened the door, disappearing inside the factory.

He checked his watch. Three minutes. Hang on. The factory. Toasty Nuts. He knew it was funny but he didn’t laugh. He reached for his pocket but looked at his watch instead. Five minutes.

He threw it into gear and started forward. The wheel seemed to float in his hands and he seemed to be aware of his foot on the gas pedal, of every bump in the old cobblestone alley, of the pounding in his chest. He pulled alongside the stairs to the side door and stopped.

Nobody came out.

He waited. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, momentarily getting lost in the syncopated rhythm. He turned and looked longingly once more at the side door.

“What could be taking so long?” he thought, “What could possibly have gone wrong?”

The plan, as he could see it, was fool-proof and he, for one, was no fool. He shrugged and dug into his pocket and suddenly panicked.

No nuts!

How could he have let his supply dwindle down to nothing? Especially at a time like this. Perspiration sprouted upon his forehead as he suddenly felt flushed and clammy. He clawed at his shirt collar and gripped the steering wheel even tighter. He stared at the side door that remained closed.

“Sumpin’s up.” He muttered and opened his door so he could open the other.

It was dark inside and extremely dusty. He made the mistake of inhaling when he entered and it felt like he had swallowed an ostrich plume. He withdrew his handkerchief from his back pocket and covered his nose and mouth as he proceeded into the blackness.


Gertrude Stein loves Pistachio Joe!


He felt crunching sounds under his feet as he trod but it couldn’t be pistachio shells. He was empty. But the sounds reminded him of his beloved snacks and he felt a pull at his groin. Blinking away the tears from his eyes, he continued on. The darkness was not receding and his eyes still had not adjusted to the lack of light. Something large and fuzzy brushed his shoulder.

“Whu’ da fuck?” he cursed beneath his breath as he jerked away from the indecipherable fuzziness. His sudden motion forced him to lose his balance and he felt himself falling.

The floor was hard and covered with a thick film of sticky dust. As he lay there with the side of his head resting in the moist grime he could start making things out. There was a dim light in front of him. He could begin to make out a shape. As he blinked his eyes in an attempt to focus, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

It looked like shoes. A large pair of shoes. Oxblood brogans with tassels in the shape of tiny hangman’s nooses. There was only one person he knew who wore shoes like that—Steve! He was looking at Steve’s shoes. But, where was he? Then he saw it, the book of matches. He was in Steve’s rented room. He was underneath Steve’s bed.

“This can’t be.” Joe thought, “This makes no sense.”

He tried to get up but there was no room for him to maneuver. Then he heard the sound of knocking and of a door opening. He heard a familiar voice say, “I was surprised you called.” followed by a clatter. A series of objects had landed upon the floor. A few of them bounced and landed near Joe’s head. Wet, blanched, hollowed out shell-like entities that smacked of familiarity. His eyes widened. Pistachio shells!

Just then the bedsprings above his head began to creak with the urgent and clumsy movements of two bodies rolling about. Joe gritted his teeth and tightly closed his eyes, squeezing out a salty tear that slowly trickled down the staircase of wrinkles on his face as he listened to the passionate sounds above him.

“I can’t forget you, Joe. I’ll never forget you.”

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No Blaise: This Stuff Is Hard!

February 25th, 2015

I bet you’re all sick of hearing about my obstacles of becoming a functioning graduate school. Unfortunately, if this is the case, you’re going to have to find something else to do with this Wednesday afternoon cause it’s hard out here for a pimp (26 year old white girl).

That being said, you’re already reading so why stop now? Misery loves company.

My first paper of graduate school is due today and while writing it last night, procrastinators unite, I realized just how hard it is for me to put a real sentence together. Sure, I write for this blog every Wednesday and occasionally there are full sentences, but the divide between snarky blog posts and graduate school papers that have to be written with your entire brain on and put into APA format, is quite large.

Step number one was wrapping my head around APA format for citing the paper, which I can say with 50% certainty I did not do correctly. Step two was not considering the creation of a title page a victory and worthy of an hour long break. Step three was stopping binge eating gummy beards. Step four was writing at least one sentence that made sense.

This paper was a shorter “reflection” paper which meant I got to add some thoughts of my own, which we all know I love to do. This meant I was almost able to convince myself I’d be able to write it today at work, but thankfully a little bit of me is an adult and vetoed that idea.

I decided that I was going to use the “word vomit, then edit” writing technique. I happened to leave out the self-edit part of this process and pretty much just word vomited onto three pages, and then a reference page, and sent it to Anika at about 12:30 last night.

I am waiting for her to look at it and send me a response with something along the lines of, “Did you have a stroke while writing this?”

Luckily, this lovely little paper has gotten my brain all nice and warmed up for the research paper I am going to be writing this weekend while out of town.

Rather than sacrifice my social life, I’ve decided to attempt to both have friends and be a good student. So far, this has meant drinking wine on Friday nights and getting up at 7am on Saturdays to do work before dog obedience class, and more often than not falling asleep sitting up while trying to do work on a couch at work as the boys sleep.

I may be going about grad school the wrong way..


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Jim Siergey & Hilary Barta: Pistachio Joe—Part III

February 25th, 2015

Here’s what’s been going on in this saga


As the duo began to pore over their plans of malfeasance and Steve, with finger poised, was about to speak, they both looked up as they heard a clatter of spewing and rustling as well as the faint whine of the storefront lookout, “Hey, you can’t go in there!”

Through the doorway, spitting saliva-covered shells out of the corner of his mouth, shuffled Pistachio Joe, his feet crunching the few shells that bounced under his pathway.

“S’up?” he mumbled as he dug in his coat pocket for a fresh handful of nuts.

“Joe!” proclaimed Steve, “I thought I told you to wait in the car!?”

“You know what thoughts make, Steve. Besides, is there something going on in here that I shouldn’t know about?”

Joe moved his attention from the startled pair at the table surrounded with debris and purveyed the rest of the room with his sleepy eyes. Then, rubbing a finger under his runny proboscis, asked “Where’s the can?”


The blonde bent over…


The blonde seemed to be bending over in order to kiss her own ass. Or do something to it, thought Joe, as he shook the last of it from his flopping cock. Errant drops splattered across the back of the toilet, the rim, and on to the already filthy floor. He decided he would be better off not touching any part of the dripping sink and faucet. He stood in the doorway, zipping his pants as the plumbing gasped its last stuttering gurgle.

“Jesus Christ, Joe! I eat in here!” said Brobik, cringing.

“Okay, you want to know, so listen up.” Steve patted the map. He drew a finger around the schematic of the factory. “Though I seem to recall that all you used to want to know was where to park the fucking car.”

Joe edged over into the edge of the falling light. He peered over Steve’s shoulder as he tapped his finger at the plant’s side entrance.

“Okay, Brobik and I will get in here. I still have the keys. You’ll wait in the car here”, he said, pointing back down the end of the side alley, “pulling up in five minutes, or if you see us first. Okay?”

“Simple enough”, said Joe, straightening up, seeds fluttering down from his mouth into the stark yellow light, “I’m not senile, Steve.”

“Great. That’s a fucking comfort. Our driver gets a senior discount on his license but at least he ain’t senile.” sneered Brobik, leaning back from the table.

“Shut up already. Jesus, you guys are gonna kill me.”


Editor’s Note: One more chapter to come

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Jim Siergey & Hilary Barta: Pistachio Joe–Part II

February 22nd, 2015

In chapter one of Pistacho Joe, this happened


Steve drew on the Lucky, making an exaggerated sucking sound. Sitting next to him behind the wheel, Joe coughed dryly. The heavy door of the LeMans swung open and Steve stood up on the curb. He turned back and leaned in the door, looking hard at Joe. His withered hands squeezing and releasing the wheel, Joe nodded. Slamming the door behind him, Steve strode across the sidewalk towards the papered window storefront.

Somewhere an angel got its wings as the bell tinkled upon Steve’s entrance. To the freckle-faced, red-haired youth intently at work behind the counter with a paddle-ball, Steve asked, “You sell window paper here?”

“That’s what the sign says, bro.” the paddle-balling freckle puss laconically responded.

“Well, I want to get my windows papered.” Steve sneered back as he reached for the book of matches in his coat pocket that served as the code to get him through the door into the storeroom where the other member of his team waited. Steve’s steely resolve faded as he found no matches in any of his pockets.

“Damn!” he thought, “I never picked them up from the floor where I dropped them.” From his mouth he plucked the Lucky that he had been loudly sucking on in the car and saw that it was unlit.

“No wonder!” he exclaimed as he turned to exit, tossing the saliva-drenched cigarette to the floor.

“Hey!” called the kid after him, “Are you gonna smoke that?”

Joe spit out a spray of shells when he saw Steve heading toward the car.

“What’s up?”

Steve reached in the open passenger window and stretched his arm toward a book of matches lying on the floor. He grunted as his hand clutched emptily at them, just inches from his reach. Joe’s hand lifted them and held them palm up. Their hands touched as Steve grasped the matches and he jerked his head back, hitting it hard on the window frame.


Pushing into the store, Steve flung the matches against the chest of the counter-boy who fumbled the catch and hit himself in the forehead with the paddle ball.

“Hey, now look what you did!”



Steve drew on his Lucky…


“Open the fucking door, you little shit!” spit out Steve, grimacing and holding the back of his head, “Now!”

“Awrite, awready.” whined the pasty-faced youth as he rubbed the reddening lump upon his forehead, “You don’t have to make a federal case out of it.”

“I’ll make whatever I want to make out of it, punk.” growled Steve, needlessly overemphasizing his toughness for the benefit of no one but his questionable libido, “Now, open it!”

“I’m opening, I’m opening.” the kid responded, the lump on his head growing to Neanderthalic proportions, “Keep your pants on.”

He opened a drawer from which he removed a ring of keys.

“Wottaya mean by that crack, wise-ass?” Steve barked, leaping over the counter and roughly grabbing the young carrot-top by the collar of his weathered Madras shirt, “You making a pass at me?”

He proceeded to smack the kid across the face, once, twice, three times.

“Now, who’s the lady, Lionel?” he smirked, grabbing the ring of keys from the boy’s hands.

Steve moved through the darkened hall, the boy’s whimpering trailing behind him.

“About time you got here.” said a burly, unshaven slob in an open-collared shirt and loosened greasy tie, looking up from his cards as Steve pushed through the door.

The slob sat at the small cluttered table in the yellow pool thrown from the single hanging overhead light. The otherwise dark storeroom was littered with stacked crates and boxes, strewn newspaper and trash.

“Shut up, Brobik. I’m here.”

“And that’s a good thing?” said Brobik, wetly, as he played another card.

Steve dragged over a chair and swiped the table with the back of his hand, sending cards, beer bottles and grease-soaked carryout cartons clattering across the floor into the dark. He pulled the plans from his jacket and spread them on the table.

“Let’s get started.”


Editor’s Note: Jim & Hilary say there will be two more chapters of Pistachio Joe!

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Matt Farmer: The Unemployment Diaries – Part Four

February 22nd, 2015

Previously, Matt left his job to find new work as a lawyer and then promptly messed up his knee, playing basketball…


If a ceiling fan could win a staring contest, I’d have lost countless contests over the last twelve days to the fan directly above my bed.

I’ve spent most of those days and nights on my back in that bed, hopped up on pain pills, occasionally staring at the blades of that off-white fan. Those blades haven’t moved an inch during that time period, and my own movement has bordered on glacial.

When I do catch myself staring at that fan, I try to snap out of it as quickly as possible. When I find myself fixating on that fan, it’s usually during a moment of self-pity.

Unemployed. Mounting medical bills. Tough to get around on my own.

You get the picture.

Twenty years ago, I might have kept staring at that fan, allowing myself to slip into a deep funk.

I didn’t have the perspective I have today.

Perspective, like my gray hair, came to me with age.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of kids who, for any number of medical reasons, also have a hard time getting around on their own, but I know that for too many of them it’s a permanent condition.

catch22manincastMatt can relate to this dude…


I’ve met plenty of people who wrestle with medical and financial problems far worse than mine but who aren’t lucky enough to have the kind of day-to-day support my family and friends provide me.

I’ve attended too many funerals over the last decade to get too worked up about my having to spend a few months on the disabled list looking for a job.

It doesn’t mean my problems aren’t real. I need to find a job, and I need to get myself walking again. Both things will happen, but in the interim I need to do my best to keep my head in the game.

And, as I’ve learned in recent weeks, heavy medication makes it tricky to keep one’s head in the game.

So I focus, for now, on little things – like not staring mindlessly at my ceiling fan.


Here’s hoping Joakim & the Bulls can get all of us through this winter!


I’ve also made some temporary changes to my radio listening habits. With so much of my time currently spent in bed, either resting or icing, I’ve turned to the radio for background noise when I grow tired of silence.

The old, non-medicated me used to listen to a lot of National Public Radio. These days, however, I avoid NPR’s news programming like the plague. Instead, I find myself listening to hour after hour of sports talk radio.


Because I’ve discovered that it’s easier for medicated me to slip into a funk when the voices in my room are talking about beheadings, Ebola, and Rahm Emanuel than when they’re discussing the NFL draft or the NBA trade deadline.

But this too shall pass.

A few weeks from now, I hope to be off the pills, walking around a bit, and starting to interview for jobs.

At some point, I may even replace my old ceiling fan. I can’t stand the sight of it.


Editor’s Note: Matt’s last post for The Third City was The Unemployment Diaries–Part Three.

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Jim Siergey & Hilary Barta: Pistachio Joe

February 20th, 2015

Many years ago, Messrs. Siergey and Barta collaborated via email in creating the following story.  Riffing off of each other’s contributions, they created this unheralded piece of “Lit Jam.” Long thought lost, it was recently discovered in a custodian’s closet in Oslo, Norway next to  several canisters containing uncut footage of The Magnificent Ambersons.


Pistachio Joe, that’s what he was called. He always had a pocketful of pistachio nuts that he’d chomp on. Not the lip-reddening dyed ones, the white ones, those are the ones with which he lined his pockets.

He’d pop one into his mouth, suck the salty coating and then with the few teeth left in his head would work the nut around inside his mouth and eventually slit the shell open and spit the two halves out, saving the precious green meat for his well-deserved reward, all without using his hands.

He was an artist at this task. No matter how many he orally manipulated, the load of pistachios in his pockets never seemed to diminish. He was like Christ with the loaves and fishes except he never fed anyone except for himself. To hell with the hungry masses, he wasn’t out to save anybody. He barely cared about saving himself.

A diet of nothing but bottles of Rhinelander and handsful of pistachios is not exactly balanced, and year by year the lack of proper nutrition took its toll. Joe seemed to age more rapidly than the other old-timers on the block.

Each time he would appear in his morning shuffle to the corner newspaper box, Joe would be slumped a little lower, his sliding feet a little less able to propel his wasting body forward, his pallor slowly approaching the shell color of his only source of sustenance. It almost seemed like a cruel form of time-lapse photography.

Yet, he was one of the best drivers around and Steve needed a dependable driver to pull off this caper. Steve closed the curtain on the window from which he viewed Pistachio Joe on his morning shuffle and returned to sit at the paper-strewn table in his rented room. The papers strewn across the table were filled with diagrams and timings and calculations for this job, the biggest job he had ever planned in his short crime-filled life.


Mr. Gleason had an orchestra…


He rubbed the back of his neck, sighed and reached into his pocket for a Lucky. He withdrew the pack, shook out a toasted coffin nail and inserted it in between his dry chapped lips. Reaching for the book of matches on the corner of the table, he inadvertently knocked them to the floor where they slid under the bed.

Kneeling on the floor to retrieve them, he gasped with surprise at what he found amongst the dust bunnies and cockroach exoskeletons lying there in the shade of his mattress and box springs.

There was a knock on the door.

“I was surprised you called.” said Joe, working his namesake shells in his mouth.

“Surprised? Why should you be surprised?” said Steve, eyeing the pistachio shells collecting on the floor around Joe’s feet.

“What? Oh, shit…I’m sorry.” Joe said, pushing at the shells with the side of his foot.

“Forget it. There’s all kinds of shit on this floor.” sneered Steve, jerking his head to indicate his bed. “You wouldn’t believe the shit in here.”

“Yeah”, Joe laughed nervously, “I’ll bet. But it’s been a while, you know. I figured you guys forgot about me. You know, wrote me off.”

Steve walked to the window and looking down, he traced the old man’s daily path to the corner and back.

“I can’t forget you, Joe.” he said softly, “I’ll never forget you.”

Orchestral strains of Jackie Gleason’s “Music for Lovers” emanated out of nowhere as Joe and Steve passionately hugged one another. Steve rubbed his Vitalis-coated black hair under Joe’s bulbous, mottled nose in a manner that they both found strangely soothing.

“Oh, Joe” he breathlessly mumbled as his pistachio-chewing paramour snuffled and snorted from the thick black follicles tickling his nasal passages, “I’ll never forget you.”

Steve lifted his head from Joe’s chest, a string of mucus from his nose attached to Joe’s lapel like a viscous tightrope and he found the pistachio man’s salty lips waiting and wanting…

Steve blinked hard and shook his head back and forth like a speed bag being pummelled by Mike Tyson as he tried to clear this image from his mind and get back to reality which, at the moment, was Pistachio Joe standing in his room…and whatever that was beneath his bed.

“You still drive, don’t you?”


Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Getting Kinky. This is Hilary’s first contribution to TTC. Welcome to the party!

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Jim Siergey: Getting Kinky

February 15th, 2015

I’ve long been an admirer of Kinky Friedman and not just because he played in The Rolling Thunder Revue with Bob Dylan, although that is very cool.

Kinky wrote songs and made albums of his own, one of which is one of my favorite albums, period. A bit more on that in a bit.

Kinky’s real name is Richard Samet and, coincidentally, he was born in Chicago. But his family moved to Texas when he was a toddler.

He’s also written many a detective novel. His main protagonist is a New York City-dwelling, cigar-smoking country singer in Stetson and cowboy boots who drinks espresso like mother’s milk and is named…Kinky Friedman.

I have read many of them and they are hilarious. The Kinkster can turn a phrase with anybody this side of Raymond Chandler. His books are a lot of fun and they are good stories too.

He was a good story teller in the songs he wrote too. He created living, breathing characters with great hooks. I recently purchased (used) one of his CDs, self-titled “Kinky Friedman” that he recorded in 1974. I had it as an album way back when and I played the hell out of it. I’ve been playing the hell out of this CD as well. Every single tune on it is, if I may use a bit of show biz parlance, BOFFO!

kinkyfriedmanThe Kinkster!


The song that opens the album is about a young hitch-hiker who is leaving love and broken dreams behind. Even with a heart-breaking line like this, Kinky can’t help but put a little twist to it.

“He said I hope to God she finds the good-bye letter that I wrote her
but the mail don’t move so fast in Rapid City, South Dakoter….”

Then there’s a plaintive tune called “The Wild Man of Borneo” that contains this stanza…

“Tattooed Lady left the circus train
lost all of her pictures in the rain
I wonder if she’s happy
I wonder if she’s free
I wonder if she’ll ever know
the mark she left on me…”


I won’t go through the entire album but I must mention the surreal slice of sit-com life song entitled “Somethin’s Wrong With The Beaver” and the rollicking album-ender recorded with his band “The Texas Jewboys” about his confrontation with a redneck in a country bar with the great refrain…

“You could hear that honky holler as he hit the hardwood floor,
they ain’t makin’ Jews like Jesus anymore”…”

He is backed on this disc by an ensemble of great musicians and, obviously, I could go on for a long time extolling it.

Kinky Friedman also ran for governor of Texas in 2006 with the campaign slogan, “How hard could it be?” How hard could it be, indeed, George W. Bush was the guv of the Lone Star state for a while before all hell broke loose. (Another of the songs on the album is “Before All Hell Breaks Loose”).

Well, I’ve bored you long enough. I just wanted to tip my pretend cowboy hat to an interesting fellow and an entertaining artist. Kinky, this espresso’s for you.


Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Tommy `n Me

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